Thoughts On Bauckham's "God Crucified"
I am a big believer in buying good books when you get the opportunity, even if you may not get around to reading them quickly. There are many reasons for this, like having them on your bookshelf makes you look smarter, greater book smell in your study, etc. The main reason is that there may come a time when you want to read that book, and waiting a few weeks for Amazon to get it to you (assuming you use the free shipping to save on cash) is just too slow.
In November of 2000 I attended an SBL meeting and picked up Bauckham’s God Crucified. It was only $6, so why not? I didn’t read the little book till just the other day, and I am very glad I did (not glad that I waited so long...just glad I read it). I highly recommend it. You can pick it up for relatively cheap on Amazon and it’s a relatively short read, so you have little to lose.
The book is a print form of some lectures Bauckham did, which is why the book is so short. It has three chapters.
The argument of the first chapter is against some ideas in NT scholarship that early Christology was a development out of Judaism’s ideas of intermediary figures. I would need to read his work a little more closely and then interact with his opponents more before really passing judgment on this chapter. However, for its brevity, it argues well.
The second chapter is the first half of why you should buy this book. In it he concentrates on a few places in the NT where Jesus is, in his words, included in the unique identity of God. Bauckham is against the whole idea of a distinction between functional and ontological definitions of deity because this distinction is foreign to the Jewish worldview in which Christianity was born. For Jewish monotheism, God’s identity is just as much defined by what he does as by who he is. Though there are times that (in my opinion here) western thought should probably supplant or at least supplement older Jewish modes of thinking, I think he’s right on the money here. It would be better christology and theology if we saw action as essential to understanding the what, the who, and whatever else goes into making up a being/God. I think it would improve our anthropology too, but that’s another topic.
The third chapter explores the use of Isa 40-55 (the so-called ‘deutero-Isaiah’ or ‘2 Isaiah’, terminology I like as short hand even if the origin is suspect) in three passages in the NT, Phil 2:5-11, the "lifted up" passages in John, and the alpha and omega passages of Revelation. I thought this analysis was quite good. I’m seeing more and more how the ideas of new Exodus, new creation, new covenant etc. that are seen in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and elsewhere have pervasively shaped the thoughts of the NT writers. I also found his note about Matthew 28:19 as a new Exodus 3:14-15 quite interesting, where God has a new name, so to speak. Interesting idea. I’ll have to think about that one more.
All in all, great little book.